The Book Thief

The Book Thief


Markus Zusak

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The Book Thief: Part 8: The Collector Summary & Analysis

Hans is not sent to fight but is instead assigned to the undesirable LSE (Luftwaffe Sondereinheit – Air Raid Special Unit) in Essen, Germany, which involves cleaning up wreckage, rescuing survivors, and disposing of bodies after air raids. The LSE rides around in a truck, cleaning up even when there are no bombings, and each man has his own seat in the truck.
Through Hans, the story is able to give more examples of the actual war outside Molching, though Hans is not assigned to fight. The emphasis on the assigned seats is part of Death's foreshadowing of a later accident.
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Hans experiences his first air raid in November, and a burning building almost collapses on him. They put out fires for a while, but later an old man dies in Hans's arms. Next he trips over the body of a boy, and then finds the boy's mother looking for him. That night Hans writes a letter to Liesel and Rosa, but he gives no details and pretends everything is fine.
The horror of the air raid prefigures what will later come to Himmel Street. Death and the reader know this, but none of the other characters do, which is another example of dramatic irony in the novel. Hans, meanwhile, uses the language of his letters to shelter his family from the war, to hide the horror of what is really happening, and perhaps to hide his own thoughts about it.
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